Sahara and Sudan: The Results of Six Years Travel in Africa


Sahǎrâ und Sûdân (Sahara and Sudan) is a detailed account of the six-year journey across the Sahara undertaken in 1869–75 by German explorer Gustav Nachtigal (1834–85). The son of a Lutheran pastor from the town of Eichstedt in Saxony-Anhalt, Nachtigal trained as a doctor and for several years practiced as a military surgeon in Cologne. After contracting a severe lung disease, in October 1862 he moved to Bona (present-day Annaba), Algeria, in hopes of regaining his health in the warm, dry climate. The following year he settled in Tunis, where he lived for several years, practiced medicine, and learned Arabic. He was about to return to Germany when he was asked, by the German explorer Gerhard Rohlfs, to undertake a mission to the kingdom of Bornu, in the northern part of present-day Nigeria, on behalf of King William I of Prussia. William wanted to thank the sultan of Bornu for the kindnesses he had shown to the German explorer Heinrich Barth (1821–65). Nachtigal accepted the assignment and in February 1869 set out across the Sahara with six men and eight camels. Volume 1 of Sahǎrâ und Sûdân, published in 1879, recounts the first part of the journey, from Tripoli (present-day Libya), through Fezzan in southwestern Libya and the region of Tibesti (parts of present-day Libya, Chad, and Niger) to Bornu, where he presented gifts from the Prussian king to the sultan. Volume 2, published in 1881, covers the second part of the journey, from Bornu to the sultanate of Baguirmi (present-day Chad) and to Timbuktu (present-day Mali). Volume 3, published in 1889, four years after Nachtigal’s death, recounts the final part of the expedition, from Wadai (now in eastern Chad), through Darfur (present-day Sudan), and on to the Nile at Khartoum. In all, Nachtigal covered nearly 10,000 kilometers, traveling to parts of Africa never previously visited by any European. He ranks as one of the greatest European explorers of the African continent, honored, like his countryman Barth, for his erudition, meticulous observations, and efforts to understand the peoples among which he traveled. Sahǎrâ und Sûdân remains an important historical source for the vast regions through which Nachtigal traveled.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Weidmann, Berlin


Title in Original Language

Sahărâ und Sûdân : Ergebnisse sechsjähriger reisen in Afrika

Type of Item

Physical Description

3 volumes : illustrations, plates, maps ; 24 centimeters


  1. Daniel B. Baker, editor, "Gustav Nachtigal," in Explorers and Discoverers of the World (Detroit: Gale Research, 1993).
  2. Claus Priesner, “Nachtigal, Gustav,” Neue Deutsche Biographie (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1952–2008).

Last updated: October 19, 2015